Thursday, March 30, 2017

Blog Tour: Leo, Dog of the Sea Book Review

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

Originally a dog with no name, Leo has become adept at catching rats on ships. After four different voyages, he has also become adept at avoiding humans. When Leo sneaks onto the Trinidad, with Captain General Ferdinand Magellan and his crew, he finally gets a chance to develop friendships with a few of the crew members. Leo even gets his name after saving Marco, the stowaway's life.

The first person narrative through the eyes of Leo, the dog works well with historical fiction rich in detail of the hard life aboard the ships. From vivid descriptions of sailors suffering scurvy to the harsh treatment of the natives from Magellan, readers grasp some of the horrors endured by historical figures and the lands and people they discover. While the adventures in the story are enough to captivate a young audience, the detailed facts of Magellan's journey and the back story of the role of dogs in history make for a must read.

 Rating ★★★★★

Publishing Information:
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (April 2017)
ISBN: 978-1-56145-964-3
Ages: 7-10

This book can be purchased from the following retailer:

Friday, March 24, 2017

Outside Shot by Fred Bowen: Book Review & Giveaway

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

After spending years shooting hoops in his driveway, Richie Mallon's practice finally pays off when he makes his middle school basketball team. He looks forward to being the team's shooter but is disappointed when he is not a starter. His friend and team manager, Camila (Cammy), encourages Richie to step up his game by pointing out that though he may be great at shooting baskets, he lacks other important skills on the court. Her team stats back up her assertions that he could improve.

Cammy convinces her dad, who is the school custodian, to let them practice in the gym. Here she helps Richie work on his rebounds. She also joins Richie on runs. Thanks to Cammy's attention to detail and persistence, Richie finds ways he can improve but will it be enough to make a difference for this season?

Author Fred Bowen's knack for capturing action in play by play scenes will keep the sports fanatic glued to the pages. Solid character development by way of the coach's insistence that the players are family and Richie's realization that he has it a lot easier than some of the other boys on the team help expand the reader's world beyond basketball. A brief history of some of basketball's great shooters help cement the story as a solid read.

Rating ★★★★☆

Publishing Information:
Publisher: Peachtree Publishing (March 1, 2017)
ISBN: 978-1561459551
Pages: 144
Ages: 8-11

This book can be purchased at the following retailers:

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Book Giveaway Details:

Please use the Rafflecopter form to enter. By entering, you acknowledge you have read the terms on the form. Winner will receive a copy of Outside Shot by Fred Bowen from the publisher.  Giveaway ends 4/11/2017 at 11:59 EST.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Stanley's Store by William Bee: Book Review

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

Stanley the hamster is back and hard at work getting ready for a busy day at his store. He's unloading fruits and vegetables from his truck while inside Hattie helps Myrtle find cheese, lots of cheese. It's a good thing for Myrtle that the store offers delivery. In the meantime, Shamus and Little Woo have plenty of groceries for Stanley to ring up. It looks like Little Woo got a little carried away with the sweets. Thanks to Charlie, not everything goes as planned at Stanley's store.

Bee's use of bright colors and bold illustrations capture the attention of the preschooler but the fun really belongs to Stanley. Who can't help but love this hardworking and charming hamster?

Rating ★★★★

Publishing Information

Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (3/1/2017)
ISBN:  978-1-56145-868-4
Page Count: 32
Ages: 3-7

This book can be purchased from the following retailer:

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Spurt by Chris Miles: Book Review

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.
Jack Sprigley managed to get the raw end of the puberty deal. Not only is he a late-bloomer, he hasn't even sprouted which proves quite embarrassing for a ninth grader. It seems like all of his friends are leaps and bounds ahead of him in the manliness department.

When Jack feels abandoned by his friends over winter break, he handles it in the most cringeworthy way, by bragging how he masturbated the entire vacation. It wouldn't be so bad if Jack kept his conversations among the guys, but the readers can't help but squirm when the girls are included in his big talk to prove he's normal.

As if Jack hasn't proven he's socially awkward enough, he tries to prove his popularity by appearing on a reality T.V. show and presenting a mature and improved version of himself. What starts out what's supposed to be a funny look at the pitfalls of puberty, gets lost in the change of direction.

The novel has a few moments that might elicit some uncomfortable laughs, including a clever reversible cover. The novel is billed as a Judy Blume for boys but it lacks the heart of its predecessor that allows the reader to really connect with the protagonist. The story starts out promising but ends up getting off track.

Word of warning: Let the reader find this one without guidance or he may never look you in the face again.

Rating ★★★☆

Publishing Information

Publisher: Simon & Schuster for Young Readers (February 7, 2017)
ISBN: 978-1-481479721
Ages: 11-14

This book can be purchased at the following retailer.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Freedom Over Me by Ashley Bryan: Picture Book Review

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

When Cado Fairchilds died, he left his estate to his wife, Mary, who has it appraised so she can sell it and return to England. Sadly, her property consists of eleven slaves and each has a price.

Bryan uses historical documents from the 1820's to the 1860's to give the eleven slaves a moving voice. Each slave has a one page spread in which the author uses free verse to tell their story. Bryan imagines their dreams that never come to fruition. Every dream involves freedom from their life as a slave using the talents they have developed. Each picture of the slaves lists their value below and the  illustrative backdrops include actual slavery documents. These illustrations drive home the inhumanity of slavery. The bright colors on the dream pages help open the door of humanity, letting the reader see the light and hope the slaves held onto in their darkest times.

The final page includes the tally of the property owned by the Fairchilds, a sad reminder that humans were once property. The heart of a child will choose to be uplifted by the slaves dreams and will  recognize the inhumanity of slavery. A must read for those who want to understand what it was like to be a slave and not be free to live your dreams.
                                  Rating ★★★★★

                                                                               Publishing Information
                                                  Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books (September 13, 2016)
                                                                        ISBN: 978-1-4814-56906
                                                                               Pages: 56
                                                                               Ages: 6-10

This book can be purchased at the following retailer:

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Ghost by Jason Reynolds: Black History Month Book Review

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

Nobody had to teach Castle "Ghost" Crenshaw how to run. He learned how to do it when his dad chased his mom and him with a gun and landed in jail for using it. Ghost has run ever since but he can't seem to outrun all of the trouble he gets into at his middle school.

When he finds himself smack center in a training session of a local elite track team called the Defenders, he impulsively challenges one of the runners to prove he can run as fast. The tough Olympic medalist coach can't help but notice Ghost's potential and natural talent. He asks him to join the team. Will the coach help channel Ghost's talent into something productive or will the anger Ghost carries with him get in the way?

As Ghost gets to know his teammates and his coach, the characters develop in a realistic way in which the reader will easily relate. The few white characters are described as such while the other characters are black like Ghost. Reynolds successfully breaks the tape with character development in a book that is sure to give running a boost. One can't help but cheer on the beloved protagonist both on and off the track.

Rating ★★★★★

Publishing Information

Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books (Aug. 30, 2016)
ISBN: 978-1481450157
Ages: 10 and up
Hardcover: 192 pages

This book can be purchased from the following retailers:

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Friday, February 3, 2017

Boys To Books Celebrates Black History Month

I know I'm admitting my age when I write this but I spend so much time reviewing children and young adult books that I don't often get to express why I write here.

I was a prolific reader growing up. I read whatever I could get my hands on. Since I grew up in a low income neighborhood with parents who didn't share the same love of reading, I didn't get very many trips to the public library.

Instead, I looked forward to the arrival of the Bookmobile in my neighborhood. I felt lucky to have a mobile library show up on my street. When I was old enough to go to school and take advantage of the school library, I felt like I was in heaven. My daughter latched on to my love of reading, my sons not so much. This is one of the reasons I started this blog in the first place. I wanted to light a fire for my sons and make sure they knew that reading wasn't just for girls.

I had one picture book that made a profound impact on my white world. That book, Runaway Slave, introduced me to my first heroine, Harriet Tubman.
Harrit Tubman: Photo public domain via Wikipedia Commons
I read this book over and over, incensed at how slave owners treated other human beings. I became more incensed every time I heard friends or family members make racist comments about my black fellow Americans.  Did they not understand my love for Harriet Tubman? A woman who single handedly saved 70 slaves by putting her life in danger and the lives of others through the Underground Railroad network. I liked to believe I would have been one of those white women who hung my quilt in the window to let those families know I would provide a safe haven. 

As a child, I am ever grateful that my parents let me watch the whole miniseries Roots. I will never forget Kizzy Kinte spitting into her white slave owner's cup of water and how I cheered Kizzy on for that small act of rebellion. I also cheered Kizzy on for learning to read. 

I celebrate Black History month to remind myself how it important it is to treat each other humanely and with love and compassion. I shook my head in disgust when an extended family member posted on his Facebook page about how the Black Lives Matter Movement is racist. I knew he would never understand what it is really all about no matter what I said. However, this is my page and I can rise up up to say I understand why the movement is necessary and why we still have a long way to go in this country in regards to the issue of race. I am glad we get a month to reflect on those African Americans who have contributed so much to our country.

I stand as a white woman to celebrate freedom and respect for all. To tell the world that I'm proud that the heroine of my youth was a black woman and that she still is a beacon of strength in my life. I stand for humanity. I celebrate black history month and the books that touch the lives of so many. I have two books for Black History Month I'll be reviewing in the next few weeks so stay tuned.

In the meantime, join me and comment on this post telling me who your black hero or heroine is and how they have made an impact in your life. (Any racist comments will not be published.)

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Gears of Revolution (Mysteries of the Cove #2) by J. Scott Savage: Book Review

With the mysterious disappearance of Kallista's father, Leo Babbage, Trenton and Kallista work together to sort out the clues he has left behind. After discovering a compass, they set off with it in hand on the home made mechanical dragon they call Ladon. Not only do they hope to find Kallista's father but they also want to learn more about their hidden mountain city of Cove.

Instead they are shot down by a group of Whipjacks and find themselves in a city called Seattle, much different than their own. The people of Seattle have to scavenge their food instead of growing it and have made an alliance with the dragons through offerings. When Kallista and Trenton realize that the Order reveres the dragons, they try to hide the fact that they have killed one.

The Whipjack leader, the 'dimber damber' Cochrane, convinces the Order to let him use Kallista's and Trenton's mechanical skills instead of killing them. Their work just may end up inadvertently help the city gear up for war.

Savage escapes the dreaded boring middle book of a trilogy by skillfully creating a fantasy world, further developing characters, and building a plot that morphs into an intriguing adventure. Steampunk and dragons come together for a unique middle grade adventure sure to elicit excitement that will build throughout the book and have the reader anticipating the third.

Rating ★★★★

Publishing Information
Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-62972223-
Pages: 352
Ages: 8-11

This book can be purchased from the following:

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Book Review: Fun Science by Charlie McDonnell Book Review

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

You Tube star, Charlie McDonnell thinks science is awesome and he's found a way to make a "Big Bang" with his first book. From the formation of the universe to the inner workings of your body, McDonnell covers a vast array of scientific topics with easy to understand facts. Written from a science fan's point of view instead of a scientist helps the younger reader get a grasp on basic principles.

McDonnell has a way of making facts fun by adding jokes and side notes along the way. For example when he adds the side note, "This rock is deep,, has many layers," it makes it easy for the reader to visualize the concept of a layers of a sedimentary rock.

The best part of Fun Science is that it doesn't have to be read from front to back like a novel. The reader can choose the subject that is the most interesting and start in the middle if he chooses. While the high school or college science enthusiast might find some of the concepts to basic, the budding young scientist will love the introduction to all things science. A fun book that might light the path of  a future astronomer, doctor, geologist, or researcher.


Publishing Information

Publisher: Quadrille Publishing (October 18, 2016)
ISBN 978-1849498029
Hardcover: 224 pages

This book can be purchase through Amazon:

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Footloose by Kenny Loggins and Illustrated by Tim Bowers: Book Review

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.
Two youngsters sneak into the zoo after hours and find out what really happens when the guests leave. They find out it's time to get out those dancing shoes and get ready to cut loose with zaniest zoo animals on the planet. From rockin' with the chimpanzees and howlin' with the wolf pack, the youngsters witness all types of footwork in a variety of dancing styles. Even the zookeeper gets in on the fun.

Bowers use of vivid colors and smiling faces will crack a smile from even the grumpiest child. Kenny Loggins change to the lyrics of his infamous song, "Footloose" on the enclosed CD will have every child jumping up to join the animals in their dance. Warning: Do not read this one at bedtime as it's sure to cause spontaneous jumping and dancing on the beds. A sure hit even before the last line is finished. Don't worry about getting the song out of your head, it's programmed to stay a while.

Rating: ★★★★★

Publishing Information

Publisher: Moon Dance Press; Har/Com Edition (October 11, 2016)
ISBN: 978-1633221185
Pages: 28
Ages 4-7

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